Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

If you watch sports, you probably cringe when you see an athlete fall and clutch their knee. As one of the important ligaments in charge of supporting the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is most likely what they tore.

Did you know that your pet can tear the same knee ligament? Although called by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem is the same.

What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament, which connects the thigh bone (i.e., femur) to the shin bone (i.e., tibia), is essential for stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin thrusts forward away from the femur as your pet walks, causing instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

A multitude of factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear in pets, including:

  • Ligament degeneration
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

In general, CCL rupture occurs because the ligament slowly degenerates over months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

What are signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

A CCL tear, particularly a partial tear, can cause signs that range in severity and can be challenging for pet owners to determine whether their pet needs veterinary care. However, a CCL rupture needs medical attention, and you must schedule an appointment with our team if your pet is displaying these signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness on a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty during the process of sitting
  • Difficulty jumping into the car or on furniture
  • Decreased activity level
  • Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee 

How may a cranial cruciate ligament tear be fixed?

Your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability will all affect how they are treated for a torn CCL. Surgery is frequently the best option because there is no other method to permanently treat the instability than with an osteotomy- or suture-based procedure. But another choice might be medical management.

A damaged cranial cruciate ligament may be the cause of your pet’s hind limb limp. To arrange an orthopedic examination, give our staff a call.